County Power Shift Brings Major Changes to Raleigh’s Future

lynxHaving a multi-tiered government means that every election brings a new character to the way we are governed. Tuesday night’s results certainly lived up to that promise, bringing significant changes to Raleigh.

I’ve always felt that the best place for Liberalism is in local government, where government application can best be managed and tailored for its citizens’ needs. Conversely the best place for Conservatism is in Washington, where one-size-fits-all governing rarely works.

Tillis Defeats Hagan

Surprisingly, outgoing N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis defeated the incumbent senator, Kay Hagan. The results for this race, along with Virginia’s, became the primary focus of national election coverage last night. The win for Republicans added to the party’s newly-gained majority in Washington, leaving President Obama relatively powerless against the Republican-controlled Capitol chambers.

In the end, however, the N.C. Senate race was a red herring for Raleigh residents. At the time of this writing Republicans will have a minimum 4-seat advantage in the U.S. Senate. The Tillis-Hagan race’s timing is being hailed as the race that put the Republicans over the edge for control. However the reality is that over $110 million of money was wasted on a race that means nothing to Raleigh.

Had Hagan won, she would have been a powerless observer in Washington over the next two years, unable to address North Carolina’s concerns. With Tillis’ win, he will be a powerless follower, but perhaps North Carolina’s interests will be better represented with both of its senators being in the same party as the majority and the state’s governor.

One thing that certainly will change for Raleigh residents is the way we watch TV and use the internet. Net Neutrality is dead from this election, so buckle up as internet service providers (ISPs) start to offer “free” or “faster” downloads for their content. I use those terms loosely because what will actually happen is your ISP will download data from competing entertainment companies at very slow rates, maybe even charging you extra for these data bits.

An example of this is your ISP charging a “Netflix surcharge” because you aren’t watching movies the ISP offers. We already are seeing this with “free” music from Rhapsody for T-Mobile users. In actuality they are charging you for music downloads from other companies.

Don’t be surprised if we see the introduction of metered data for home internet, too. ISPs know that Netflix is straining their servers at night, so they intend to pass along the costs of extra capacity. One way to do this is to limit the data you use during those period…unless you pay them extra.

Republicans Maintain Control of Both State Houses

A more important result for Tuesday’s election is the continued control of the state’s government by the Republican party. While some Democrats pulled off upsets, it was still a night where even Democrats with highways named after them lost.

The result was a statement of disapproval by the people against Reverend Barber’s Moral-killing Monday demonstrations. For some reason demonstrators thought they had an effective way to win back control of the state’s government; a message that Republicans hate teachers, minorities, and women. However The People turned out heavily for this midterm election sending a somewhat strong message of support for the current legislature.

Democrats Take Unprecedented Control of County/City Government

Lost in all of the hoopla over the senatorial race was the real story from last night. Not only did Democrats win a voting majority of the Wake County Commission, they have every seat on that commission. In fact, of the 24 main governmental seats in Wake County, 21 are owned by Democrat winners. Only 2 are Republican and 1 an “Independent”.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire election is the disparity in government control on the national and state levels with the local government in Raleigh. As I stated earlier, this is probably the best structure for the grand scheme of things, and will definitely be a fascinating study over the next 24 months.

* * *

How Will Raleigh Change?

The Democrat’s sweep of the Wake County Commission was primarily led by the Sig Hutchinson campaign. The announced agenda for the election by his team focused on five areas:


Wake County should see a big push for increasing teacher pay and building new schools. With no resistance, we should see a reversal of the conservative-led movement away from busing a few years ago.


For over twenty years Raleigh has tried to organize a plan for “mass transit” (high-occupancy rail transit) and hasn’t been able to gain any decent funding beyond Planning and Land Acquisition. That all changed yesterday, however, as Wake County’s commissioners will get serious about developing a rail transit system. With the approval of the Orange/Durham light rail plan by the Feds back in February, Raleigh and county leaders feel like the city has fallen far behind in planning. There will be a huge push toward getting ground broken as soon as possible, regardless of costs.

Parks and Greenways

Parks and greenways seem to win every bond referendum, and this year’s bond victory is no different than others. Expect to see continued development of greenways paths, especially in outlying areas of Wake County. However the biggest change we will see is the realization of Dix Park. With the county and city behind this, there is finally political pressure to make the Dix Park dream a reality.

Water and Environment

Expect a big change in wastewater treatment, as storm water runoff and sewage are going to play big roles. Whether we see the return of a garbage disposal ban or water use restrictions during abundance is yet to be determined, however you better save those plastic bags from the grocery store because they will likely be banned in Wake County. We may also see development of larger water reservoirs, however the big push from this group will certainly be on the conservation end.

Jobs and Economic Development

We can expect a big push for arts-oriented and computer lifestyle jobs. Too, we should see a big push in transit-oriented development and infill projects, and a de-emphasis on sprawl-oriented, land-clearing projects.

How Will Raleigh Pay For This?

The new agendas in transit and schools will be extremely costly, and is not achievable with the current tax structure. With Republicans holding the federal and state purse strings, there will be a sense that Wake County should try to fund as much of this as possible locally. This makes sense, actually, given that we are the the benefactors of a system. After all, it isn’t Peoria’s responsibility to pay for our light rail system.

Residents should plan for steep (>20%) increases in property taxes. A hotter political item, however, will be a necessary sales tax increase. Currently Wake County is one of the 71 counties with the lowest sales tax rate in the state, 6.75%. The highest sales taxes exist in the transit-taxed Durham and Orange (7.5%) and Mecklenburg (7.25%). Wake County residents should prepare for a sales tax of at least 7.5%, however 7.75% is likely to be proposed given the perceived need to “catch up” with other counties’ transit plans in light of absent federal and state funding.

Usually it takes time for sift the meaning of elections. In Washington the unpopular President Obama will have to figure out (perhaps borrowing from President Clinton’s playbook) how to legislate with the opposing party controlling both the Senate and House. Locally, however, the future is clear. We’ve seen what Raleigh City Council leadership wants over the last 10 years wants, and over the last year we’ve seen what the Wake County School Board wants. Now that their county-level restrictions are gone, and we will see all three bodies start to stretch their legs very quickly as they steer Raleigh forward.


Make A Comment
  • DougInNC Said:

    Good analysis in my opinion, with a +1 also from this household. You provide and provoke interesting thoughts while making tangible predictions for Wake County’s future.

  • Vatnos Said:

    I couldn’t disagree more about your assessment of the National and State politics… democrats knew going in they weren’t going to retake the GA. It was heavily gerrymandered against them, and it was a midterm election. They would’ve needed to carry the whole state by 10 points at least to have a chance, and this is NC, not New England. At best they hoped to gain a few seats and get rid of the supermajorities.

    As for what type of government is ‘best’, I’d prefer the government that got us out of the Great Depression, the government that put a man on the moon, the government that oversaw the greatest growth in economic prosperity in this country’s history during the 50s and 60s. I’d prefer that kind of government to the supply-side schlock we’ve gotten from both parties since the 1980s that’s eroded the middle class.

    But that’s just me… clearly many other people my age who feel the same way have given up voting entirely at this point.

  • ct Said:

    The fact is, more than half the bits flowing across the Internet in the U.S. are video. Billions of dollars of capital investment are required to move those bits. The service providers who pony up the cash for the networks can either (a) jack up everyone’s rates to generate an economic return on those investments, or (b) two-tier the system (which, in effect, they have done already by offering higher speeds; hardly anyone except video streamers needs the higher speeds), or (c) divert some of the traffic into their own servers. So take your pick. I stream very little video, other than YouTube. I don’t want my rates run sky high so that my neighbor (as an example) can stream Netflix all day and all night.

    Bear in mind, the Democratic candidates for Wake County Commission pulled exactly the same percentages (54-56%) as Kay Hagan did in Wake County. Those numbers are quite consistent. But does it matter whether the Wake County Commission is 4-3 Democrat or 7-0 Democrat? Not much. All that matters is who has the majority. There is very little cross-voting on the Commission.

    I wouldn’t agree that Hutchinson was the leader of the Democrats running for the Commission. What evidence do you have for that, beyond perhaps assertions from the Hutchinson camp? By the way, school board tax proposals went down hard in Democrat-dominated Guilford and Mecklenburg counties. The new Wake commissioners don’t have a blank check.

    Sorry but the Wake County Commission has little or no influence on what happens at the Council of State on Dix. Only one seat of the Wake delegation to the General Assembly changed party.

    Deemphasis of sprawl? You’re living in dreamland. Too much money is being made OTB for it to stop. For every unit of housing ITB, there are still more than 4 being built OTB.

  • DougInNC Said:

    A voting trend that is not a revelation: the Progressives win the metropolitan areas like Wake County. This also shows itself nationally with the coastlines voting differently than the interior, broadly speaking.
    But the views by county and country are not nearly as revealing as the voting maps of Virginia, where cities, e.g. Roanoke, are separately-reported voting districts from the county that surrounds them. Study a voting map of VA (beyond D.C.) and you see tiny islands of liberalism inside a sea of conservativism.
    I like your notion that local votes might take a different tact than national votes. Today I can’t see the evidence of this within the individual voter, but I definitely see it in the voting from densely-populated areas versus the voting from suburbs and rural areas.

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